The London School of Economics has found itself in the midst of yet another scandal as students from the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist (ASH) society were threatened with physical removal from the university Freshers’ Fayre this week unless they covered t-shirts deemed “offensive”.
The university’s student union officials apparently removed material from the ASH Society stall, citing the two students wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ shirts as antagonists in the incident. ‘Jesus and Mo’ is a satirical cartoon strip which has caused issues on university campuses before. Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis, the latter of whom writes for this website, were told that “the wearing of the t-shirts could be considered ‘harassment’, as it could ‘offend others’ by creating an ‘offensive environment’“.
Student Union officials alleged that other students had complained about the t-shirts.
Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, said:
“We reject in the strongest possible terms that by wearing a non-violent, non-racist t-shirt we would harass other students or create an ‘offensive environment’. We reject completely that we were not behaving in an ‘orderly or responsible manner’.
“In fact, when faced with the entirely unreasonable request to change or cover up our clothing, we remained calm and asked for clarification on what rules or regulations we were alleged to be in breach of. Even though we completely disagreed with the instructions of the LSE, we still complied, making clear that we would challenge this decision through the appropriate procedures.
“As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others.
“The t-shirts worn are harmless satirical depictions of fictitious religious figures and certainly cannot be considered intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to anyone by even the most stringent standards“.
In addition to this, Stephen Evans, the campaigns manager at the National Secular Society said, “There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation“.
In seeking to protect the feelings of religions students over the free speech of all, the university faces accusations of enforcing a “blasphemy law” which curtails the criticism of religion on campus.
A full account of the incident, in the words of Moos and Abhishek, can be found here.